South Africa v Australia,1st Test, Cape Town March 16, 2006

South Africans unhappy with Newlands pitch

Cricinfo staff

Ricky Ponting expects South Africa's wearing wickets to suit reverse-swing © Getty Images
South Africa's players are understood to be upset about the allegedly spin-friendly track at Newlands, the venue of the first Test against Australia starting today.

Christo Erasmus, the groundsman who has already announced his intention to retire after this Test, said the South Africans had conveyed their disappointment. "They came to me and said they thought there would be more green grass," he told Fox Sports. "I told them that you don't need green grass to get pace and bounce. The fuss has been made too big. It's the same story every year.

"I've learnt to live with them being upset or not. It's water off a duck's back. Maybe the guys who are kicking up the biggest fuss will be the ones who score the most runs. Regardless what they see, it won't be a raging turner like the SCG."

Erasmus said that the prevailing dry conditions took a toll on the pitch. "I want to prepare good pitches," he said. "We must also ensure the Test last five days so that spectators can get value for their money."

Ricky Ponting said the pitch will assist his spinners. "It looks a bit bald on both sides. This will help our spinners," he said. "In Melbourne and Sydney [in December and January against South Africa], we went in with both spinners on wickets that were quite juicy on day one, and as it turned out we ended up winning both of those games."

However, Ponting believes that the dry pitches could aid reverse-swing and thinks that South Africa have the wherewithal to exploit it. "I think it will be an issue through the series," Ponting said. "I actually brought it up in the team meeting. It's the end of the summer, the wickets are going to be fairly dry I would imagine. The ball reversed a little bit down in Durban in the one-day game. The outfield and ground are a lot harsher than here so it might do a little bit more down there.

"It's pretty much the same sort of time as when we were playing in England. It's the end of their summer, dry wickets, the ball went a lot over there so we expect it to do a fair bit here as well."

The South Africans had requested the pitch to favour their seam attack. "I don't think it's any secret we are looking for wickets with a little bit of grass in it," Micky Arthur, the South Africa coach, said. "We want to try and negate the Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill factor."